A Legend and a legend take the stage in Albany


Editor's note: As of Jan. 21, this show has been canceled.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Even though the Times Union Center never closed, the Albany venue's operators still know how to throw a reopening party.

On Friday, Jan. 26, the arena will host John Legend, James Taylor, Moriah Formica and Jim Belushi to celebrate the completion of a renovation project that modernized the building's front entrance. While the event is being billed as a "Grand Re-Opening" concert, the Times Union Center never completely shut down during the project, which lasted more than a year. The most significant change was creating a climate-controlled atrium with a glass elevator, escalators, plants and two LED video boards above the doors outside.

"It looks more like a mall than it does the entrance to an arena," said Bob Belber, the regional general manager and Northeast region director for SMG, the company that manages the venue.

The space spans most of a city block on South Pearl Street, with the video screens each measuring 15- by 70-feet. But the performances inside the arena are bound to draw the most attention on Friday night.

Legend is in the midst of justifying his stage name. The pianist and soul singer born John Stephens has embraced the moniker pushed on him by a friend during his youth.

''It was bold and I knew people would be like 'He'd better be good if he's going to call himself John Legend ... So I said, 'Let me go out and make the best music I can and maybe, after my career is over, I've lived up to the name,'" Legend told Melba Newsome of The New York Times in 2006.

He's well on his way. Since 2005, he has won 10 Grammys and been nominated for 18 more, his rhythm and blues tunes often delving deep into romance. One of the 39-year-old's most well-known numbers, "All of Me," was dedicated to his wife, model Chrissy Teigen. It reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 2014. In addition to the hits, songs from Legend's most recent album, "Darkness and Light," have been staples on recent tour stops.

Legend has earned further acclaim for his contributions to film and theater, garnering an Oscar (with Common) for best original song ("Glory," in the film, "Selma") and a Tony as a co-producer of "Jitney," which won for best revival of a play.

In April, he will play none other than Jesus Christ in NBC's "Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert!" show. And his marriage to Teigen is often at the fore of popular culture discussions, with the couple sharing moments from their relationship and political opinions on social media.

Taylor has had a few more decades to cultivate his legend. The 69-year-old singer-songwriter returns to the Times Union Center after rehearsing there with Bonnie Raitt this summer before stops at Tanglewood and beyond. He told The Eagle's Clarence Fanto in July that, even when the setting is grand, the focus should remain on a concert's sound.

"The staging can be a beautiful thing to see, but you want to be careful not to distract from a musical evening," Taylor said.

At 17, Formica hasn't yet achieved Legend's or Taylor's level of fame, but her run on NBC's "The Voice" this fall has made the Latham, N.Y., native plenty of fans.

"I've been here 24 years and have yet to see someone with that power and talent," Belber said.

The guitarist and vocalist will perform Friday night. Belushi will host the event, which has altered its ticket pricing structure, adding pricing levels. While the $65 cheap seats, so to speak, are sold out, $95, $135, $165 and $195 tickets remain. Those who purchased $135 upper-level seats under the previous structure can exchange those tickets for lower-level seats at the same price by visiting the box office, according to Belber. They cannot be exchanged online.


What: Times Union Center's "Grand Re-Opening" celebration concert featuring John Legend, James Taylor, Moriah Formica and Jim Belushi

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26

Where: Times Union Center, 51 S. Pearl St., Albany, N.Y.

Tickets: $95-$195

Information: 518-487-2000; timesunioncenter-albany.com

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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